Older mothers at more risk of severe health problems

03 June 2017

Women who have children later in life are more at risk of suffering serious complications, experts warn.

A new study has found that becoming a mother over the age of 44 doubles the chances of experiencing a severe health condition when compared to women who gave birth in their early 20s.

Furthermore, the older women were also 10 times more likely to end up in intensive care than their younger counterparts.

Researchers observed mothers aged between 15 and 60 giving birth between 2003 and 2013 in Washington State, looking into 828,269 live and stillbirths which didn’t include twins or other multiple births.

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The rate of death or suffering a potentially life-threatening illness was 156.2 per 100,000 births for those aged 20-24 and slightly lower for women aged 25-29 at 143.4. However, the rate rose dramatically for women aged 40-44 at 230.8 and was even higher for women over 44 at 355.1, over double the risk faced by the younger generation.

It was also found that 80.2 per 100 deliveries of older mothers ended up in intensive care, compared to just 7.1 in the youngest age bracket. Around one in six mothers over 44 had gestational diabetes, and were more likely to suffer kidney failure.

While there have previously been studies into the impact having children later in life has on the babies, these discoveries add the less-known area of the risk to mums themselves.

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"Women usually worry about their babies, and not so much about the implications for their own health," said lead author Dr Sarka Lisonkova, assistant professor in maternal medicine at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

"While severe adverse conditions in mothers are rare, they do increase more rapidly with age at childbirth in women’s late 40s or later. It is important to counsel women about all potential risks."

Results were published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

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